Alrighty then... The day is done. The kiddos are all tucked into their beds sleeping peacefully. The honey is also heading to bed early - a late night you-tube surfing will do that to you.
It's just me. Alone. Ahhhhh. Finally there's a little bit of time to write and document life. I blog in my head throughout the day. Trying desperately to make mental notes about the day's events, what the kids are learning about, how they're growing, changing. But the hard drive appears to be full. By the end of the day I rarely can recall any of those mental blogs. I'm afraid that these days will pass just like the last eight years and I will have few concrete recollections of this wonderful, precious and crazy life that I love.
So, before too much more time passes, I want to preserve some memories that haven't been completely forgotten:
Labor Day. We had planned on going camping. It's been an annual tradition. I don't know if it was just time getting away from us or just lack of planning, but the weekend was upon us and we just didn't want to go. It seemed like too much work.
So what's the next best thing to camping out in the woods? Camping in your back yard, of course. We built a nice fire. Roasted crescent wrapped hot dogs on sticks. Ate watermelon and chips. Watched the sunset. It was a sweet time as a family. And not much to pack or unpack. It was great!
We opted to forgo putting up tents and slept comfortably in our beds. The kids slept in their sleeping bags in the game room. They were satisfied.
In the morning we stoked up the fire again, just for the sake of having a fire...we didn't really need one. We drank hot chocolate and ate muffins.
Sometime before lunch we decided we'd go on a hike. So we packed up some lunch, water, and sunscreen, and headed to our favorite hiking area, Sycamore Canyon.
We decided to hike the rim trail to Sycamore Falls. We were hoping that after all the summer rain that we'd actually see water in the Falls.
As we hiked along, finding big spongy mushrooms, horny toads, Indian Paint Brush, and even a tiny scorpion, I vividly recalled the first time I hiked this trail. To keep their minds off of the uncomfortable heat, I told the kids the story as we hiked:
I was 26 years old and I had huge butterflies in my stomach. This incredibly handsome man that I was getting to know had asked me to go on a hike with him. I really wanted him to like me. I had met him on a blind date just a couple of weeks earlier and had a very fun time. We had gone out to dinner on our own once after that and again really enjoyed each other's company. Then we hiked to Sycamore Falls. It was our first time to be out and about together. I remember hiking along trying to ask and answer all of those get-to-know-you questions. Everything he said just made me want to know him more. We climbed down some really steep cliffs. He made me pistachio pudding. I thought he was pretty wonderful.
How very strange to be hiking that same path eleven years later with a short line of children between me and that same incredibly handsome (and so much more!) man. In all of my imaginings back then I couldn't have pictured the absolutely full and wonderful life that God had in store for me.
Anyway...We hiked along and finally got to the Falls - it was a considerably longer hike because of all the stops and short legs. There was no water in the Falls to our great disappointment. Just like the first time.
We hiked around a little bit more, watched some climbers scale the cliffs, and had a snack.
In the distance we began to hear some thunder. The clouds, as usual had been building throughout the day. In the distance we could see some really dark and heavy ones. We decided it was time to head back to the van. We were fairly certain that if we did get rained on, it would just be a typical short Arizona shower that would rinse off the sweat and feel refreshing.
Boy were we wrong. We had hiked not more than 10 minutes from the Falls when the rain started to fall. It was a hard and cold rain. In my mind I kept questioning, should we keep going or find shelter? As the rain fell harder, the thunder clasped louder and louder.
After rounding a bend, Tom spotted a dry spot at the base of a huge Ponderosa pine and made the decision to wait out the storm there. We gathered together under the branches and tried to stay out of the rain.
At first we just talked nonchalantly about the rain, being cold, how much longer the rain would fall, how much closer and louder the thunder seemed to be coming. But, after 10-15 minutes of thinking it would only be only 10-15 more minutes, the rain fell even harder and the thunder even louder. We were wet, cold, and the kids were beginning to fuss.
The rain shifted and fell harder. No matter where we stood we were getting wet. We huddled together tightly; the kids were sitting at the base of the tree while Tom and I hunched over them. Livvy and Sammy took turns being quiet and then complaining about being cold and wet. Ben sat absolutely quiet and still, shivering.
I had moved Jon's carrier from my back to my front. I held him tightly to me trying to keep him calm. He'd cry for a five or so minutes, and then I'd get him to quiet down for another five minutes by pressing my lips against his ear and singing quietly.
I began to worry.
I begged God to make the rain stop and then I questioned His lack of a quick answer.
Twenty minutes went by. Thirty minutes went by. And then forty minutes.
Every time the rain seemed to lessen, there'd come another sudden burst of cold hard rain.
Finally I was about to break. It was like reaching transition in labor. That point where you want to scream, "I can't do it anymore. I'm done. I quit." You don't say it out loud because you know that it's pointless. But it's how you feel. The pain becomes so intolerable and you can't see anything beyond the immediate.
That's how I felt. I had reach my max. Huddled under a tree, soaking wet, cold, and miserable. The kids were trying their best not to fuss, but Jon had started crying again. I couldn't imagine feeling warm, dry and safe.
It was right at that point that the rain let up just enough that Tom said we'd just make a break for it. Joy and relief filled my spirit. There was hope. (This might seem a little dramatic now that it's weeks in the past, but at the time it was all that I knew.)
We all quickly hopped to our feet and started squashing up the trail that had turned to mud. I led our little motley crew in the rain with Tom pulling up the rear with Ben on his shoulders.
The rhythmic walking thankfully put Jon to sleep. Livvy, Sammy, and Ben chattered on about how we really should have been content with the heat that God had given us at the beginning of our hike because now it seemed really nice. They were truly trying to put what they knew of God and His word into context with what we were going through.
I told them that they were my heroes and I was so proud of them!
We rejoiced when we saw the van. Tom immediately turned it on and cranked up the heat. We got the kids out of their wet and muddy clothes and into some dry ones that I keep in the van for emergencies.
I think we were all a little giddy with the excitement of what we had just gone through.
Once we got on the road we realized how hungry we were. We ate in the parking lot of Wendy's - Tom and I were too wet and muddy to eat in the restaurant. Plus, the van was nice and toasty, I did not want to get out.
Our Labor Day weekend certainly did not go as planned. But, it ended up being the experience of a lifetime! I pray that we never forget God's faithfulness to lead us through and out of trials.